Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Race Report #12

Number of crashes in my race………………………......……. A lot
Number of seconds before the first crash………………… 15-20
Number of flat tires last week……………………………......... 4
Number of broken spokes last week…………….....………… 1
Number of buckled rims…………………….……….........…….. 1
Number of new holes in my flesh………………….......……… 5
Number of times laws of physics were broken…..……….. 1

It was a bit of a crumby week as far as cycling was concerned. As noted above I had four flat tires a broken spoke and a buckled rim. Normally that many flats would indicate that I had done a few bad patch jobs, or hadn’t found the splinter of glass that was causing the punctures. This time the four flats and the broken spoke occurred on four different wheels. I am starting to suspect that my bikes have unionized and are going on strike.


There was one race this weekend and one day of nice weather. The two did not coincide. Saturday it rained most of the day over most of Seattle, but when I arrived in Ballard at the site of the race (shortly after getting flat tire number 3 for the week) the course was mostly dry and while the sky was overcast nothing was coming down. Following the advice of nearly everyone I spoke to, I waited until the last minute to register for the race. I’ve been told that there are only two races in the area that shouldn’t be done in the rain, Ballard is one of them. The reason being that while it isn’t a terribly technical course, just a standard four corner crit two blocks long by one block wide, there are a few sections of brick that are super slick when wet. The deadline for registering was fifteen minutes before the race.

Five minutes before the race it began to rain and I could swear the clouds were laughing at us. The race started and sure enough, first corner first lap two riders in front of me there was a crash. My team captain was one rider in front of me and he went down, cursing the whole way. I managed to avoid that crash and caught back onto the retreating pack. Next time I wasn’t so lucky. We were maybe twenty minutes into the race and an attack went off the front. I followed but he went into the corner a little too hot and down he went. It was either hit him and then crash or just crash and skip hitting him, I went with the latter, grabbed the bike and headed for the wheel pit. Overall not too bad a wreck; road rash on my left hand, shoulder, hip, thigh and ankle. Unfortunately for those of us in the crash they placed us back in the pack rather than with the breakaway which is where we had been. The remainder of the race is largely a blur. I was nervous about going through the corners with any real speed so I got gapped coming out of every corner and had to chase back on over the flats. Nearing the end of the race I noticed that I was the only guy on my team left in the race (six others started) and that the rest of the field had suffered a similar attrition. Finally we were down to five laps to go meaning that the wheel pit was closed and the free lap rule was no longer in effect. With three and three quarters laps to go I was going around turn two when suddenly my rear tire was sliding out from underneath me and I heard metal grinding on concrete. I don’t know how a flatted in the first place, but even more mysterious I can’t possibly comprehend how I didn’t fall. I think that the race gods showed mercy on me suspended the laws of physics and allowed me to walk my bike to the finish line to watch the sprint. The guy behind me wasn’t so lucky. He saw me start to slide, locked up his breaks, and went down with a thunk sliding off the road and over some train tracks.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to finish for obvious reasons, I don’t feel too bad about the race. I was far from comfortable with the race but I felt a little more so than I did at the last rainy crit I was in.

On a side note I heard a funny story from one of my teammates at a BBQ last night. He was talking with a couple of the top riders from two of the other local teams and they wanted to know where I came from. The cycling world is pretty small when it comes down to it and they were wondering how I could just appear like they seem to think that I have, so they Googled me. All that turned up was some collegiate C and B race results and some rowing results. Neither of which really is an explanation for being just nine points shy of becoming a cat one racer after so short a time. The point of the story is that I am apparently gaining a bit of notoriety in the local cycling circle. It does the ego good to know that I’m getting noticed, even if it is for being a freak-show.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Race Report # 11

Number of races .................................................. 1
Number of bikes used in said race .................... 2
Number of squirrels that got severely messed up trying to run through the pack ..... 1
Number of teammates that got severely messed up in crashes .......................... 1

In last week’s race report I said that I would be racing at Volunteer Park in Seattle on June 12th. That was a big fat lie. Volunteer Park was this Sunday and it was a blast, well it was a blast for me. Great course nice weather and lots of team support. It was another matter altogether for the squirrel and teammate mentioned above.

It was a criterium, but the course only had two real corners, and only one of them was sharp. From the start line we rode south and circle around a large brick water tower that resembles a castle turret. After circling around the tower three quarters of the way we made a sharp left turn into the downhill which curved around the bottom of a reservoir and then curved back uphill to the second corner which set us up for the 200 meter roughly straight false flat to the finish.

I managed to line up on the front of the pack which is still a rarity for me, but it’s nice to not feel like you’re down before you start. The first few laps were nothing terribly special. I was expecting it to be like other criteriums where I have to hang on for dear life for the first five laps, but it just wasn’t like that. At least I don’t think that it was, it could also be that my body was just better rested. Last weekend I had friends in town and I had four consecutive days where I didn’t ride the bike. I was active and moving around, hiking, sea kayaking, and eating. Lots of eating, but my butt never touched the saddle. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t been off the bike for that long since before I started working at Boeing in October. When I finally did get back on on Wednesday I felt substantially stronger than I have in quite a while. I suppose that it’s possible the race actually did start out the same way it always does and I just felt stronger.

After the first five or so laps I decided to spice things up a bit so I attacked. I got away solo and managed to build a 20 second lead over four or five laps when my chain started making this horrible noise and jumping gears every couple of pedal revolutions. I would find out later that I had somehow managed to twist my chain by bending two separate sets of links—no idea how that happened. I would guess that this resulted in a 10-15 percent reduction in my power output and it definitely ruined my rhythm. We hadn’t had a prime yet so I decided that I would try and stay off the front until we got a prime lap just so that I could have something to take home with me before being forced to abandon. Shortly thereafter they rang the bell for a prime lap and I took that but shortly after two riders had bridged up to me. One of them I didn’t recognize, but the other was Kenny Williams who has won just about every crit he’s ever been in. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a criterium that he’s been in this year that he hasn’t won. He’s just that fast.

The rider I didn’t recognize dropped off pretty quickly because he couldn’t hang, and it was just me and Kenny. Had my bike been working I am confident that he and I could have walked away from the field. He almost certainly would have taken the sprint (barring divine intervention in the form of a flat tire, loose dog, or lightning bolt from above), but I would have had a very convincing second place wrapped up. The chain issue proved to be too much for me and I started dropping off the back, but by that point we had better than a thirty second lead. The next few laps were probably my stupidest of the race. If you are experiencing a mechanical problem in a criterium you are supposed to be able to stop in the pit get it fixed and start back with no penalty. I didn’t want to try this because I’ve had bad luck at being granted free laps in the past and I knew that the problem was with my chain which isn’t something that is easy to fix on the fly. What I finally did far later than I should have was yell at my teammates who were watching the race to tell them that my chain was f****d and that I needed a different bike, one with Speedplay pedals. One lap later they said they had one for me but it was just as the pack was catching me and I was on the wrong side of the course. I had to wait for the entire pack to go by before running across the street to the correct side of the course getting off of my bike and climbing onto the new one.

By the time I got on the new bike I was 150-200 meters off the back of the pack. In general it doesn’t take long to go 200 meters on a bike, but when those 200 meters are riding away from you at the speed of the Pro-1-2 peloton it gets a lot harder and takes a lot longer. It also doesn’t help when the bike that you’re on isn’t yours and the seat is an inch and a half too low. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but for most (95%) of the riders out there, their races would have been over right there. It took me five very painful laps (remember that before I was off the back by myself, I had been off the front by myself), but I managed to catch back on. I spent a few minutes trying to recover but it didn’t last long before one of my teammates pulled up next to me and said that we had to get to the front in order to try and chase Kenny down.

By then Kenny had a lead of just under a minute. We tried to organize a chase but between Kenny’s teammates who were blocking and the general unwillingness to chase, it just didn’t happen. At one point when it almost started getting organized a squirrel ran into the peloton and tried to run through some guy’s wheel. The spokes caught him and sent him flying around the peloton like a pinball. I felt bad for the little guy, but decided it was better to pay attention to the racing to avoid the same fate. Time wore on and I must have recovered a little bit because I found myself attacking off the front again, solo again, with five laps to go. I got a 10 second gap when a chase group of four riders started closing on me. They caught me but not before I got the last prime of the race with three laps to go. We had no chance at catching Kenny who had almost lapped the field by then, but the four of us were guaranteed no worse than 5th place if we stayed away from the pack. After so much time off either the front or the back of the pack I didn’t think that my legs had much of a sprint left in them so I attacked near the bottom of the hill heading into the uphill section. This gave me a good gap on two of my opponents but the third was able to hang on and pass me at the top of the hill where he was able to take the sprint because, as I suspected, my legs didn’t have a sprint left in them.

In the end I finished third and took two primes, which I was happy with especially given the circumstances of the race.

The bad news is that in the next race, the men’s masters C/D race, my friend Suz Weldon got taken out. Suz is the pro women’s racer that I’ve mentioned in some other race reports and she was racing in her second event of the day. She’s been really good to me, lending me aero wheels for time trials and just giving me general support so it was really sad to hear that she had crashed hard. She now has a “fractured rib, multiple fractures of her clavicle, and a pneumothorax.” I’m no doctor but that sounds like a busted chest, a really busted collar bone, and a bunch of air inside the chest and outside the lung (bad). The doctors put a chest tube in for drainage but her lung was 40% collapsed at the time and that’s all the news that I’ve got so far. She will be fine but damn that sucks.

Not to sound callous by moving on too quickly but my next race is the 11th in Ballard starting at 8:00 pm. It’s a twilight crit which are really cool races to watch, email me if you want to know more (location etc.).

See you all